Microsoft Office 15 apps to include 'touch mode'

Microsoft Office 15 apps to include 'touch mode'

Summary: The coming Office 15 client apps all seem to be getting a new 'touch mode' button that will enable them to work better on touch-centric devices.


It looks like Office 15 client apps are going to get more touchy, but in a way that won't force touch on users who don't want or need it.

One of the big questions many Microsoft watchers have had is how Microsoft plans to make its next-generation Office client apps more touch-friendly, so that they'll be optimized to work on tablets and PCs running the touch-optimized Windows 8 operating system. Microsoft officials already shared that the four Office 15 apps that will be "included" on Windows 8 on ARM (WOA) tablets will be Desktop apps, not WinRT-based Metro-Style apps. So how will Microsoft make these versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote work better with touch than their current-generation counterparts?

It seems that Microsoft is including a button in each of its Office 15 apps that enables a "touch mode." This image of the technical preview version of Word 15 -- shared by one of my contacts with access to the Office 15 technical preview -- shows off that button.

(click on the image to enlarge)

Currently this button doesn't really function, according to my contact, who requested anonymity. However, Microsoft's intention is to enable the Office UI to switch to something more touch-friendly when Office 15 apps are used, my contact said.

This approach also seemingly would allow users who aren't using Windows 8 on touch-enabled/touch-centric tablets and PCs to continue to navigate in a more natural keyboard/mouse-friendly way by not invoking the touch mode.

The Verge has a few more screen shots of the technical preview versions of some other Office 15 client apps. Given the Verge's Word screen shot looks basically identical to the Word screen shot that my contact shared, I tend to think these are all the real deal. I've put in a query to Microsoft to see if the company has anything to say on these, but I'm not holding my breath.

In case you missed it, earlier this week, I posted some early tidbits about the next version of SharePoint (SharePoint 15). And The Daily posted new information about the alleged Office for iPad release, which may or may not be arriving in a matter of weeks.

My sources are saying Microsoft's goal is to release to manufacturing the Office 15 client, server and Office 365 complements all by late 2012. Microsoft hasn't announced its release targets or final name (Office 2012? Office 2013?) for the coming suite.

Topics: Windows, Collaboration, Microsoft, Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • It would be neat if Windows 8 had this built in.

    If they built "touch mode" into Windows 8, clicking one button (say where there start button used to be), all apps could respond and switch themselves to touch mode, if the the app supports it.
    • You missed the demos??

      Windows 8 is all about touch. And not much else. MS is going touch in a big big way. I'm both looking foward to it, but also fearing it as they seem to want to dump the old desktop 100% and fast. While in some cases that might be good, in others it won't work at all. It'll be interesting, but I'm afraid it might not be too fun for some folks.
      • Someone apparently isn't reading previous articles

        It's already proven that the desktop is staying... read on Mary Jo's previous article it has already been proven that Microsoft will keep the desktop on Win 8.
      • ...what about post-Windows 8?

        @hocarlos Yes, but what about the next version of Windows that follows up Windows 8? Will it still have the desktop? Or maybe just a very limited version of it left like we're already getting today with Windows on ARM?

        Would have been better to have this kind of "touch-mode" as "tablet-mode" in Windows 8, so when it's switched on you get to the WinRT-UI, and if it's off you get the old-fashioned Win32 desktop.
      • Dumping the desktop? Come on.

        You think Microsoft is dumping the desktop 100% and fast? I think your information and your intuition is a little weak. The desktop is not only a strategically important part of Windows, but we demonstrate that by bringing Desktop into WOA. Windows is a coin with two sides. A touch side in Metro and a productivity side in the Desktop. You're nuts.
    • +1

      Great feedback. Please post this on the Building Windows 8 blog. The Windows team is receptive to feedback.
  • Microsoft Office 15 apps to include 'touch mode'

    That's awesome. Its like getting the best of both worlds. Now people have no reason not to use Microsoft Office since you can use it on your desktop with a keyboard and mouse and on your mobile device that requires touch. Microsoft just reinvented the office suite.
    Loverock Davidson-
  • UI design

    Stevie Ballmer needs to get the Office 15 UI design team, and move them over to the Windows UI design team. The Office 15 UI looks sweet, and would love to see that on the desktop.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Looks sweet indeed

      You are right about one thing - the Office 15 UI looks sweet. You and I don't see eye to eye on Windows 8 it sounds like. I use it every single day, and I think it is brilliant. Office 15 is a UI update, Windows 8 is a UI change. I think changes can make people resistant. I get that. But I love it.
  • Why a button?

    If a user touches the Word windows shouldn't it automatically switch to touch mode? And if you click in the window with the mouse shouldn't it automatically switch to Mouse mode? Is the button there as a last resort switch?
    • And what if

      the user happens to use a mouse to open the program but intends to use it in touch mode? Or vice versa?
      Michael Kelly
      • Easy

        In what little I've played with Windows 8, in office it will probably be seemless. Both mouse and touch will work together at the same time. So far though it appears to push more for touch than mouse, which is a big mistake IMHO.
    • Either mode works, right?

      Mouse and touch work in either mode. It's just in the touch mode, the controls are bigger so I don't suffer from miss-taps as much. When I need a tighter UI (like while I am composing) I can do that, too. The button is to respond to the need of the user, not anticipate their intention - that was Clippy! Remember him?
  • Microsoft had this ready to go 10 years ago

    I was holding a touch tablet in my hand in 2002. Everything was ready for this back then. It's really a amazing it's taken this long and Apple to make ths finally work.
    • They could if you could get them to do something.

      Microsoft don't build new technology. They develop new stuff only when they have a fear of being kicked.
      Remember IE, Bing. They did nothing on Internet till they realized Netscape was running away with it. Same for search till they realized someone else took off. Same for Touch.
      • How do you figure?

        How do you figure that MS doesn't build new technology? You seem to think that Apples does? If so, read this:
      • Some people just don't know

        Turns out you just don't know. The innovations that Microsoft can claim are crazy-vast. And not just first tablet computer and first smart phone. Since Microsoft writes software from game consoles to enterprise antivirus - I would bet you just don't get a chance to see how innovative Microsoft really is. They rarely get credit; that's a fact.
  • Can you use touch mode all the time?

    I really hate the "ribbon" interface. The touch interface looks clean and simple.
    • If you hate it...

      ...hide it. Just click the little arrow in the upper right corner (or press Ctrl+F1) and the ribbon retracts. It looks just like the "clean and simple" touch interface you admire, without the horsey caps.
      • You read the article, right?

        The purpose of Office 15 touch-mode is to make the user's experience when on a touch-only device easier, better, less miss-tapping. Asking a user on a touch-only device to press CTRL+F1 is sort of... well, it's funny.